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Mullenweg Responds to Jetpack’s Foibles

Posted on by in Blog

Got a beef with Jetpack, WordPress’s latest “supercharged” plugin? You aren’t alone.

Brian Krogsgard, a blogger and lead WordPress and User Interface Developer at Infomedia in Birmingham, Alabama had a handful of gripes about the plugin that he outlined on his personal blog. What he didn’t expect, I’m certain, was the coup d’etat he scored by actually having Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg directly address some of his and others’ complaints in a lengthy thread in the comments of the post.

Krogsgard does use Jetpack and by his own admission was not railing against everything provided by the plugin. Still, here is a list of his “frustrations” and Mullenweg’s attempts to address them.

WordPress.com Account Requirement

Jetpack requires users to have a WordPress.com account even if they don’t want to use any of the modules that actually require such a connection (i.e. Carousel). Krogsgard and others note that this process is confusing for their clients and a main reason why they don’t use Jetpack on client sites.

Mullenweg explained:

In order not to have people have to register every single one of their domains as a new application with every third-party service (two today, more down the line), we needed everything to go through a single top-level domain. The one that makes the most sense was WordPress.com, because we had already registered it, and it already had millions of users logged in already, including from many VIP sites.

He also indicates in his response that it’s fine if it’s not for everyone, but “the vast majority of Jetpack is useless (or broken) without a connection to WordPress.com, especially stats and subscriptions which are people’s #1 feature.” He notes that the connection to WordPress.com has been in place for four years, but it caused a huge support issue when it was overly hidden or constrained to a specific page.

.org Versions of Plugins Disappearing

Some plugins got gobbled up into Jetpack, and when that happened, development on the non-Jetpack .org version stopped. Examples given are: Grunion contact forms source, Sharedaddy, Wicket Twitter widget github fork, After the deadline, and WP LaTeX.

Mullenweg responded that feedback from users indicated they had “plugin fatigue” — too many different plugins with different updates and varying compatibility, security, performance, and code quality. Having multiple plugins within a plugin was the solution to that.

Top-level Menu Intrusion

Jetpack adds a top-level menu upon installation, listed at the top of the admin menu just below the dashboard but above the posts tab. Krosgard and others see this as an afront to their posts, as if Jetpack assumes it’s own superiority over the author’s content. Krogsgard even mentions a plugin called Menu Humility that specifically shoves the Jetpack option to the bottom of the menu.

To this, Mullenweg says the Jetpack menu item actually consolidates several things, including:

  • Site stats, the number one most popular page in the admin on WP.com, above any core pages,
  • Akismet configuration and stats, the most popular plugin on WP.org, which usually gets its own menu item under Dashboard, and
  • VaultPress status, stats, and configuration, which gets its own top-level menu item if Jetpack is not installed.

He notes that the respective stats pages are quite popular, which is why Jetpack links to blog stats in the admin bar. Simply put, Mullenweg feels “it goes best with the “Dashboard” part of the WordPress menu rather than the content or settings area, or buried at the bottom.”

Unwelcome Auto-activation

Krogsgard contends the settings page presents itself in a custom manner and makes it hard to find where to deactivate modules. Most of the new options are auto-activated, which can trump set up that took you awhile to complete and were happy with.

Mullenweg says the decision on whether to auto-activate certain items is on a case-by-case basis. Typically there are notifications about what gets activated when you upgrade to a new version of Jetpack. The expectation is that when you click the update button, you won’t need to go through a second activation step for the thing just installed, especially if it’s a secondary item, such as additional widgets.

Mullenweg says that where things are “off” by default for people upgrading is “when it significantly modifies the front-end of the blog, or potentially conflicts with an existing plugin” and cites Comments and Carousel as examples.

Comment Forms

Krogsgard urges readers who have enabled Jetpack comments to leave a test comment on their own site while not logged it. He notes that when you submit “the entire page redirects to http://jetpack.wordpress.com/jetpack-comment, and back again.” Krogsgard found this pretty alarming, noting that a random commenter would likely think that some kind of error occurred, increasing the chances that they would be scared away from your site.

Mullenweg notes that is is by design and is part of why the WordPress.com account is necessary:”This way the apps we’ve registered can ‘work’ on your domain, and though it’s through an iframe, that’s completely invisible to most users, they just see a nice-looking comment form on your site. We have to do this through an iframe rather than writing information directly to your site because otherwise your domain would have access to user’s information just when they visit, which would be a security problem.”

He also notes that every comment comes back to your database, and you still have complete control over the markup and styling of the rest of the comment thread.

And so. . .

Mullenweg’s commentary is plainspoken and direct, and he manages to keep a tone that encourages a spirit of collaboration versus a tense defense of Automattic’s decisions where Jetpack is concerned. It’s designed the way it is in an effort to address user feedback, security and ease-of-use concerns which are things every company with a product strives to do.

What do you think? Do you use Jetpack on your site? Do you find these issues are a concern for you? Do Mullenweg’s explanations sway you one way or the other? Leave us your comments in the box below.

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